January 31, 2009

The Imporance of Relationship Selling

Most complex sales are predicated on relationships. That is the ability of the sales person to build a rapport, credibility and trust with the buyer. Yes, buyers are looking for the best solution, but it is certainly not always the most feature rich, or functionally sophisticated product that wins.

For what is a great product, if you don't know and trust the people who are going to help you implement it? Time and again people buy on the basis of people and company, ahead of product, or solution.

When we talk about the relationship between buyers and sellers we talk about 3 dimensions; height, width and dept. If you are planning to close a deal any time soon, then you will need to be sure that you rate highly on each:

Height - are you talking to people at the right level – that is C level (CTO, COO, CEO, etc.) and have you got their attention and respect? Have we 'CEO proofed' our message – that is tailored it to address the key business drivers of concern to senior managers (e.g. costs, sales, etc).

Width – are you talking to all the right people, that is covering the buying group, including; the decision maker(s), economic buyer, technical buyer, user, etc. Do we really know and understand the requirements and concerns of each? Have these been adequately addressed?

Depth – how deep is the respect, trust, credibility and rapport? Are you seen as a salesperson, or an expert? Are you a seen as a trusted advisor? How open is the buyer with you, and visa versa? How much time and genuine interaction has there been? Has there been any contact outside of formal meetings, or interactions? Have we demonstrated a genuine commitment to helping the customer?

Sales people and their managers find it very useful to analyze both existing accounts and sales opportunities along this revealing 3 dimensional relationship scale.

The focus has changed from transactions to relationships, but the way we sell has been slower to change. Relationships cannot be fast-tracked - an investment in building relationships requires a long term view (well beyond the next sales meeting, or this quarter's sales target). The era of the one meeting sale is long over and work on building the relationship really needs to happen long before an request for a proposal, or RFI is received.


Charles Green said...

Congratulations on having this post selected as part of the March Carnival of Trust.

The Carnival of Trust selects the Top Ten posts dealing with trust from around the blogosphere.

This month it is hosted by (and your post was selected by) Beth Robinson at her blog Inventing Elephants, and it can be found at

The Carnival of Trust originates with Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates, and is at

I particularly liked your emphasis on the relationship rather than the transaction and the need to reflect this in sales. That very point is one of the four principles I suggest in my own book, Trust-based Selling.

Congratulations again on your selection.

Trip Allen said...

I completely agree with you- sales process, products don't always win the deal. You need to take a long term look at building your relationships....and cover all angles to get the deal(s).

We posted a similar post on the Egyii blog- take a peek at it and comment if you feel it is appropriate.

Trip Allen, Team Egyii, Singapore